Illinois-based indie singer-songwriter Sarah Schonert embellishes her classical piano-led compositions with ambient washes, electronic beats, vocoded synths, and layered vocals. In this extremely experimental environment, Schonert, who writes, produces and records in her home studio fuses her energies in incorporating new technology into her sound as well as enlisting the use of vintage instruments.
Schonert’s previous LP, My Unwinding State, amassed over a dozen reviews/interviews/features and an award. Altogether having written and produced seven albums out of her home studio, including 3 instrumental EPs, it looks like the singer-songwriter is on a roll with no sight of slowing down anytime soon.
Penguin Party, Schonert’s latest offering is in the singer’s true experimental form, a work that elicits the passionate artist’s innovative stance, filled with piano-based tracks that include electronic vsts, loopers, ambient washes, carefully crafted arps and an assortment of instruments that she had collected over the years.
The album opens up with “Astound Me” that starts off with warbling electronic beats, ambient synths that overall offers up an atmospheric sound on this piano-laden track. The indie-pop sound comes across as charming carrying a starry-eyed and romantic appeal. The ethereal-based washes are moving on this dynamic song. While dramatic, a sense of pressing urgency is apparent on the track blending a seamless piano melody as captivating layers of vocals run over each other that goes on to create a surreal and unearthly effect.
“Tree With Feet” is a chilling and mellow rendition that contains a soothing sound with overlapping vocals recorded over each other. The melody comes in pieces in a discorded fashion, deducing a haunting melody from the piano on this track. The traces of piano add to the overall dreamy façade on the song. With an entrancing vibe, this startling music comes across as eerie and otherworldly.
“Queen Of Panels” is dressed with a dramatic piano tune filled with a heavy bassline that keeps up the rhythms on this track.
“Queen OF Panels Outro” is an interlude entirely based on the piano. A lovely and memorable piano melody trace this song.
The title track, “Penguin Party” is peppered with an engrossing electronic vibe with soaring synthesizers also filling this song. A whimsical sound is evident as layered funky harmonies fill this invigorating sound.
“Listen Soak Repeat” begins with a spoken word-like section with a drum beat drilling in the background the tempo and ambient synths sounding off in the backdrop of the track. Vocals played over each other in an overlapping fashion gives off a dynamic appeal to this great Contemporary Radio fare. The dreamy sounds on this haunting song contains out of this world, ethereal elements.
“I Can’t Think Straight” utilizes warbling synthesizers that erupt toward the beginning of the track. Grainy vocals reverberate on the song with a sharper focus on the overlapping vocalizations that ring with clarity and in a higher volume. Crystalline piano melodies trace beneath the gamut of this track.
Waves of atmospheric synthesizers and energized keys fill, “Glacier Drive.” The ambient sounding track is based purely on electronic beats, keys, and synths.
The bright sounds coming from “Irreverent” gives an iridescent approach to the upbeat sounds coming from the drums. Piano keys sidle into the track next with a chorus that is executed in a spoken word-fashion. Flares of background vocals echo throughout the song and then warble off into the distance, synced with auto-tuned vocals toward the end of the track.
“Noncrystalline” is a piano-laden track dressed with a dramatic piano performance. Electronic beats also accompany the piano along with Schonert’s vocals. Marching piano melodies supported by electronic beats give off a catchy and upbeat feel.
“Overdriving Headlights” is paved with warbling synthesizers on this ambient sounding song. Flares of electronic beats blare throughout the track paired by a beatific piano melody. The enticing music really courses over you with layers of driven electronic beats dressed by a dynamic piano delivery.
“You Still Awake” starts off with invigorating strings plucked in an energized fashion with vocals coming in next with startling synths drawing in the electronic beats that flare in and out of the song.
The closer “Get Thee To A Nunnery” is a soaring track, inspired by a quote from Hamlet. The song establishes Schonert’s vocals abilities with an exquisite piano-led melody. The track is supported by dissembled electronic beats that clashes over layers of overlapping vocals, creating a dramatic effect with the dynamic piano loosened over the effect of the song.
Carefully executed in her home studio, the output is dynamic with 7 studio albums to show for Schonert’s celebrated efforts.
These 13-tracks are attention-grabbing and moving. This album reflects the artist’s movements towards innovation as she incorporates electronic beats with the piano. These are introspective tracks that are ingrained with Schonert’s growing perspective as she grows as an artist. On the record, she experiments with the keyboard, looper, and vocoder to create an engrossing and eclectic sound that maneuvers between electronic music and the world of classical music.
Schonert slays all naysayers with this energized album suffused with an electric-electronic vibe with dramatic piano-based overtures. She is definitely able to come out with the best of both worlds with this electric album.
Unafraid to experiment with new technology to create a more innovative sound, Schonert’s pantry isn’t paltry. Penguin Party’s eccentric sound is filled with eclectic instrumentation, as well as incorporating a mismatch of instruments she has collected over the years.
With a repertoire of work behind her, Sarah Schonert definitely has the stamina for more. With 10 recordings under her belt, it looks like this true artist is showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon.